RESEARCH BRIEF: Statistics for the Pallet Industry sector in US

By Leslie Scarlett Sanchez, MS Candidate
Department of Wood Science and Forest Products
Virginia Tech


Pallets are the interface between packaging and the unit load handling equipment (White & Hamner, 2005). Another simpler definition is that pallets are “portable platforms”, which facilitates the movement and storage of unitized goods (Kator, 2008).

Unit loads are also important to define, as the system comprised of pallets, packaging materials, and unit load stabilizers (stretch wrap, tie sheets, corner posts, load adhesives, and strapping).

Pallet Sizes

The growth of domestic and international trade, the need to plan operations for the transportation, warehousing, and handling of materials throughout the supply chain have made necessary the creation of standard dimensions for pallets. If every manufacturer or transportation agent would create and use its own dimensions, there would be significant costs added to the logistics operations; costs that at the end would be transferred to the final customer as higher product prices. Standard dimensions also facilitate the mass-production of pallet parts, reducing their unit cost.

There are a variety of pallet sizes, depending on their major use and the geographic region where they are manufactured or used. Some of the most common sizes used in the U.S. according to the American National Standard/ MH1 (2005) are listed in the Table 1 below:

Table 1. Pallet Dimensions (American National Standard/ MH1, 2005).

Common use Pallet Size (in.) Share of annual production (%)
Grocery 48×40 30.0
Chemical 42×42 5.7
Military 40×48 4.0
Beverage 36×36 3.0
Source: American National Standard/ MH1, 2005

Employment in the Wood Pallet Sector

Pallet and containers manufacturers are rather small, with more than two thirds of establishments having less than twenty employees. A typical firm in this sector has only one establishment. Figure 1 shows the employment characteristics of pallet and container firms.

Figure 1. Employees per Establishment in 2006 (Census Bureau, 2010)


Lastly, the economic significance can also be understood by looking at the value of shipments in the U.S. As can be seen in Figure 1, value of shipments has increased almost 45 percent over the period shown (2000-2008), or at an annual growth of 5 percent.


Figure 2. Value of Shipments


White, M. S., & Hamner, P. (2005). Pallets Move The World: The Case for Developing System-Based Designs for Unit Loads. Forest Products Journal, 55(3), 1-9.

Kator, C. (2008). Pallet basics. Modern Materials Handling. (Warehousing Management, Edition). Vol. 63, Iss. 5; pg. 28, 1 pgs, 2010.

MH1 Committee. (2005). American National Standard.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2009). Annual Survey of Manufacturers – Wood Pallet and Container Value of Shipments, Years 2000 to 2008. Retrieved January 2010, from Department of Commerce – Census Bureau:

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Annual Survey of Manufacturers – Manufacturing (Employment), Years 2000 to 2008. Retrieved January 2010, from Department of Commerce – Census Bureau: